Observations From A Single Journey
So far I've only made one train trip in Russia, that between St Petersburg and Moscow, and I was suitably impressed with every aspect of the journey.
The 650 kilometre train route between St Petersburg and Moscow is Russia's busiest with up to 36 trains daily, each-way, between the two.
The fastest trains are the state-of-the-art Sapsan services which can cover the journey non-stop in under four hours. There are also a variety of slower, stopping services, and comfortable overnight sleeper services with varying journey times of up to nine-and-a-half hours.
Trains depart St Petersburg's Moskovsky station, on Nevski Prospekt and arrive in Moscow at Leningradsky station, on Ploschad Komsomolskaya.
Prices vary enormously, depending on specific trains, their times and the class of tickets but the fast trains are still relatively inexpensive considering the distance with an average Sapsan 2nd class fare being 2844 roubles - June 2014.
On my trip I opted for the non-stop "Nevski Express" which had a journey time of 4 hours 10 minutes with a 2nd class fare of 2080 roubles.
Buying my ticket online, through the rzd site below, proved to be problematic as it wouldn't accept my payment card. Fortunately a Russian friend, who I was meeting up with in Riga before my trip, offered to buy the ticket for me. This proved to be an ideal solution and I was able to print my ticket before setting off.
Interestingly, the Nevski Express had been de-commissioned after the introduction of the sleek-looking Sapsans but was brought back into service as the route's improved punctuality brought about a major increase in its usage. This proved to be a delightful journey, harkening back to the era where only the wealthy could afford (or indeed were allowed) to travel by train. At the end of each carriage there's a conductor who scans your ticket and checks it against your passport - then you board and you're on your way. During the journey each carriage's conductor acts as a concierge, running a little galley supplying hot drinks, snacks and travel souvenirs with an at-seat service. There was also a freebie airline-style "lunch pack" with a sandwich, bottle of water and some nibbly bits.
My coach was one of the traditional ones with a six-seat compartment, but was perfectly spacious and my travelling companions suitably civilised. With a good book the four hours soon passed.
As well as the journey itself I had a wander around a couple of the train stations in St Petersburg, just to get an idea how things work. The first thing to note is that there is a security check when entering the stations - you have to go through a metal detector and to pass over any electronic devices. This isn't as strict as airline security and the detector isn't set off by things like coins and keys and so there's no need to empty your pockets, but they are manned by the police who will, if necessary, do further checks.
Note that if using the Sapsan or Nevski Express there is a further, slightly stricter, security control with a luggage X-ray but once again no need to empty pockets.
The couple of stations I visited, Moscovsky and Finlandsky, were well-lit, modern and felt perfectly safe with a very visible police presence. Both had plenty of facilities such as cafes, shops, vending machines, ATM's and, I assume, public toilets, although I didn't need to use one.
Finding your way to the relevant platform is easy enough, although it does help if you can read the Cyrillic signage and main electronic notice boards are also in Cyrillic. The Sapsan service though does have its own bi-lingual information screens.
The seat61 website below has a very comprehensive overview of the system, along with an easy-to-use booking engine - for which there is a small commission.
For the cheapest tickets the rzd website is best, and it also gives information on the occupancy status of the bookable services, but, as I mentioned above, I did have problems completing my purchase on it - maybe that has since been resolved.
Looking forward to my next trip!Related to:
- Budget Travel
Cruising with "M/V Princess Arabella"
A special ship in Russia: "M/V Princess Arabella"
it is the smallest ship of the russian fleet and the only one that is able to go to through the Belomorsk Canal to the Solovietsky Islands.
This ship was built in order to serve as a floating hospital in Amsterdam before it was sold to Russsa. This ship has extra-wide corridors, large bathrooms and even an elevator big enough for the rolling beds of a hospital. BUT unfortunately it has disadvantages as well: all decks were extra-low and I very often hit my head when entering the restaurant.What you can see in my main photo is an ordinary sight in Russian rivers: there is 1 landing-stage and that is shared by all ships that are docking there and you have to walk through other ships in order to get back to your own ship.
Only our ship "M/V Princess Arabella" did not fit to these ships, because it was much smaller and the decks were not in the same level, so it would be "smashed" between 2 of the larger ships. So our ship was forced to always go alongside the other ships and change its berth or position when-ever a new ship wanted to dock or left the ports.
Such cruises have to be booked from abroad, as the ships are chartered to travelagencies from all places of the world and you will hardly ever be able to book such a tour on a hotelship in a travelagency in Russia. My ship had only german-speaking passengers onboard, other ships are chartered only to englishspeaking.
- Family Travel
- Luxury Travel
MOSCOW : METRO STATIONS
Do take some time to study the art and design around the famous Moscow metro stations, the chandeliers, the paintings and mosaic displays, the Soviet details on the lamps, when you take the metro.
Kievskaya, Komsomolskaya, Mayakovskaya, Novokuznetskaya, Park Kultury, Belorusskaya, Revolutsii Ploshchad are some lovely ones. The Muscovites should be so proud.
best way to get there is a cruiseship
I came by cruiseship to Vytegra, but this stop was not on our schedule and I also never saw Vytagra as a port-of-call of other cruiseships. We came down from the Whitesea-canal and obviously we were a lot faster than expected to get across the Lake Onega.
Nothing was organized there for us, but it was a lot of fun anyway and you can do almost all sights by an easy walk from the ship totally on your own.Related to:
- Family Travel
VYTEGRA > 430km to St. Petersburg
Vytegra is about 430km from St. Petersburg and on russian roads this distance is not always a lot of fun. Many roads have heavy potholes and there are also police-control-points at many places, when you are driving overland. As a western tourist you normally should not drive such distances without anybody who speaks russian, because policemen mostly will not speak any other language than russian.Related to:
- Road Trip
River-Cruising from Perm to Moscow
River-Cruising from Perm to Moscow
As far as I know this quite rare cruise-itinerary will be offered only by the ship M/V Furmanov and only 2 times each year : once in spring from Perm to Moscow and thats also the very first cruise of this ship after the winter-break. At the end of the summerseason the 2nd such cruise will be offered in late october from Moscow to Perm. Both of these cruises are sold at the german cruise-market only and german also was the only language onboard.
Along that route you will see some places that you will hardly ever be able to see another way:
Perm - Yelabuga - Nizhnekamsk - Kazan - Votkinsk - Cheboksary - Ples - Gorodets
I had a small single cabin onboard of the cruise-ship M/S Furmanov, a 3-star ship.
The price for this singlecabin was 2400 euros for the cruise from Perm to Moscow, including flights from Vienna and lots of excursions.Related to:
- Luxury Travel
Domodedovo Airport in Moscow
How to get to DomodedovoBuses will take at least about 1,5 hours to get you from the city-centre of Moscow (e.g. the Kremlin) to Domodedovo airport. I came by bus from the river-port in the north of Moscow (last station of the green Metro-line), on a sunday shortly after lunchtime, from the riverport we needed 30 minutes to the centre and another 90 minutes to the airport.
So it makes sense to add some extra time for trafic-jams and rush-hours, when taking a bus.
The night before I had such a traficjam on Twerkaja-street and needed 3 hours instead of 30 min to get home.
Our bus was organized by the cruiseship, so unfortunately I dont know anything about public transport to Domomdedovo-airport !
according to some infos that I got from Sonja (VT-member yumyum) there is a train each hour leaving at the Metro-station Pawelezkaja directely to Domodedovo, it takes 45 minutes.
Pawelezkaja is at the crossing of the green-line and the ringline of the metro, in the south of MoscowRelated to:
- Adventure Travel
- Budget Travel
The Metro in Moscow
The metro in Moscow is a tourist-attraction, especially when you are taking a look around in the beautifully decorated stations of the Ringline and the stations in the very centre of Moscow.
For the ride in the metro you have to pay just for the entry to the tunnels and then you can stay in the stations and trains as long as you want, you can change the trains as often as you want, go into any direction etc.
So its also possible for tourists to stay there for some hours and explore all the interesting stations. Some years ago taking photos in the metro-stations was forbidden, but nowadays its no problem anymore !
Metros beat any other city transport
The metros in Moscow and St. Petersburg are efficient and economical. My only complaint, and it is not exclusively a Russian problem, is the poorly labeled stations. Often from inside the metro car I could not tell the name of the station. Natives told me that they had no problem because each station was uniquely decorated. For a visitor this usually does not help. Someone told me the poor labeling was to confuse invaders. I was fairly often confused.
Except for one line, there was nothing displayed in the cars about the station of arrival. The announcement in Russian was confusing because when I could hear it, I think it said something like,"We are arriving from X, at station Y and will be departing for station Z on the line going to Q. Please be careful not to leave any belongings. Also give up your seat to the old or infirm."
To a non-Russian speaker this did not help at all.
Because of all the switchbacks and curved passageways, it was difficult to get oriented once you came above ground. Carrying a small compass really helped in this situation.
Oh yes, at the entrance to some stations from the street occasionally there were old signs indicating no photography. I decided that meant no pictures of trains, tracks or escalators. No one seemed to mind me or others taking pictures, so you will just have to decide for yourself if it is worth the risk that someone might take exception.Related to:
- Budget Travel
River cruise travel hints
There is quite a bit of variation in the prices quoted by agents found over the internet. Some of this may relate to the services included. For example, free transfer from the airport to the ship, free visa support, special tours beyond the boat standard or maybe even a higher quality food service with inclusion of wine might be included in some packages, but a charged item in another. Some ships probably are more luxurious than ships in the low cost category we chose to use. I imagine that a higher quality ship might have higher quality food, entertainers and perhaps even more highly paid or qualified guides, but we were VERY satisfied with the Rus. (The Lenin and the Cherynenko were similiar.)
Having read warnings, confirmed by friends, that there is a danger of being on an almost all English speaking ship, we were happy to find that over 60% of the passengers on our September cruise were Russian. About 25% were Spanards, 8% French Canadians, and 7% native English speakers or from English speaking countries.
One other consideration might be the docking locations in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Especially for us in St. Petersburg the docked location was rather inconvenient for free exploration of the city as it required taking a (free) shuttle or a regular public bus to a metro station to get into the interesting part of the city. Taxis are available but expensive because of the long distance.Related to:
- Budget Travel
Paying for baggage
For the buses I took between cities in Russia (total 3) I found that I had to pay 10-20% of my ticket price for transport of my bag which was a large carry-on backpack. I was not allowed to take it onto the bus and the first time this happened I was sent back to the ticket window to pay the fee. After this incident, I anticipated the requirement and paid the fee when I bought my passage.
I have never experienced this in any other country I have visited.Related to:
- Budget Travel
Moscow Metro, how to find your way underground
in moscow but not used metro ? you cannot say that you've been to moscow unless you used metro , at least from your hotel-flat to red square, ok you are staying nerby the RSQ but again, you should use metro to go somewhere just to see every station has a different theme... what that mean ? just enter and see yourself ..:)
Make sure you go to the right direction cos it has 3 different lines and total 180 kms...
As Russia is the biggest country in the world so flying is sometimes the only way to get to some remote places. However all major airlines flying to Russia so you can use it if you can afford it. There are also some budget airlines flying to Russia and sometimes you can get really good deals.
A car is very useful to use in Russia as most of the time public transport is slow and crowded, but only a local registered car, a foreign registered car might attract burglars and thieves (as anywhere else in Eastern Europe.) Having a local driver familiar with the roads is a bonus as road signs are not marked that well :)
Russian people are mostly used to travel by train, and it doesn't surprise me since the train system in Russia is well developed, comfortable and for sure less expensive than taking an airplane.
For people who are interested in experiencing Russian culture, a trip using the train is a must !
This website (http://www.poezda.net/en/index) offers an English version of timetables, this will tell you where you can purchase the ticket (departure station), but the online purchase is only in Russian.
Here's another site for timetables: http://www.waytorussia.net/Services/TrainTickets.html
Here are some different prices compared with airlines: http://www.sras.org/guides_russian_travel_budget
Diufferent kind of tickets:
Kupe tickets: (compartment) will allow you to have a bed in a closed compartment, compartment to be shared with other 3 people.
Platzkart: (economy class) will allow you a bed in an open carriage with about 25 other people.
In both cases (Kupe or Platzkart), you will find fresh bed linen, the only difference it's that in the Kupe your bed will be ready by the time you arrive, and in Platzkart you have to make your own bed.
Honestly, having used both, i suggest Platzkart, "private compartments" (kupe) are sooo hot in winter that you will really swet and probably have difficulties sleeping because of excessive hot.
Here's a brief description of what you will find written on your ticket:
1 - Train Number
2 - Date of Departure
3 - Time of Departure (MOSCOW TIME)
4 - Wagon Number
5 - Class
6 - Departure City 7 - Destination City
8 - Seat Number
9 - Passenger Name
10 - Date of Arrival
11 - Time of Arrival (MOSCOW TIME)
Important: When you get the ticket, make sure you check all your personal information on it (miswriting) !
Before entering the train the ticket lady will check your ticket and passport, and before the train leaves, the lady will again come and collect a copy of your ticket.
Don't worry if you have friends coming on the train to say bye to you, before the train leaves, the lady will make sure that all non-passengers have left the train.
Feel free to bring food and water on the train, of course you can decide to eat at the train restaurant, but maybe expect it to be expensive.
Something else i found really nice, is that it doesn't matter which ticket you choose, you always have the possibility to take hot water from a kind of samovar to make your own tea.
To end, it's a great experience, Russian trains are clean and well organized, no worries at all.
I stayed in the Moscow Metropol for two weeks in Sept. 2008. Bad: The Internet access is terrible....more
Five star accommodation caters to the foreign visitor. For regular tourist it also has some...more
13-B Karl Marx Street, Irkutsk, 664015, Russia
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